Nursing groups dispute grim patient-ratio findings

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Landmark California regulations that govern nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals appear to have little to no effect on the quality of patient care, according to new survey results. But many nurses disagree with the findings.

Many of the state's measures to gauge the success of the minimum nurse-to-patient ratio program showed no improvement since the regulation's implementation in 2004, according to the nonprofit California HealthCare Foundation, which conducted the survey. Researchers analyzed older surveys to reach their conclusions.Average length of hospital stay, pressure ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, pneumonia mortality and other metrics have remained essentially the same over the last five years, report authors said. The ratios did, however, lead to an increase in employment for licensed nurses. A report filed in the March 2008 issue of the journal Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice found similar results (McKnight's, 3/25/08)

Nurse union groups have challenged the new report's findings, calling the metrics used to gauge success flawed. Representatives from the California Nurses Association say that metrics—such as average length of stay—can be influenced by insurance policies, and that recidivism rates or whether or not a patient was better off before or after a hospital visit would be a better way to measure success.

The CHF's report can be found online at http://www.chcf.org.